What if we had more women on our Boards and Commissions?
Gender equity now!
It’s time for women of Norwalk to have an equal role on our Boards and Commissions. The other day I was preparing a letter to the Mayor’s office about how important it was to achieve gender parity on our Boards, Commissions, Committees and Agencies, given that women make up about 52% of the resident population in Norwalk. I found it hard to believe that we still have several important Boards, Commissions, Committees and Agencies had zero, if few, women.
For example, the Board of Estimate, where our financial health and budgets are reviewed, has two immediate openings and currently includes no women. Send those resumes ASAP!
I feel that the time has come to strive to achieve true equity on each and every one of our Boards and Commissions where at least 50% of the seats are occupied by women, including women of color. We have a long way to go but I truly believe Norwalk would be even better if equal representation were achieved sooner rather than later. Let’s reserve more appointments for women and do better outreach in order to promote openings. Newtown and several other towns actually announce openings in their local newspapers.
According to the revived Commission on the Status of Women (first begun by the late Mayor Bill Collins in 1987 and which should also include males), City Code Chapter 115-4: Duties of the Commission, Section E: To conduct outreach to encourage public participation to improve the status of women and Section J: To promote equality in the appointment and hiring of persons for all levels of government positions.
The Commission has great intent but has not moved fast enough and is in need of reorganizing in order to expedite equity. I approached them in March of 2022 and still await a meaningful conversation after advocating about this for years. They have recently developed a list of vacancies that can be viewed with difficulty on the City website and have contacted our new DEI Officer.
Here are a few examples of Boards and Commissions that need to have a “woman’s point of view”…and skill. There are many terrific male volunteers, but there are ALSO many terrific females that are not being allowed to participate.
Top needs right now:
Board of Estimate, known as the BET. There are no women on this important financial and budgeting Board and there are two openings that will be decided upon very soon. I strongly believe that the two openings should only be reserved for women. For a long time, there had been only one female seat and I know that there are many qualified women who would apply if the openings were made more public. Send your resumes and bios to the Mayor’s Office and your Councilperson ASAP.
Harbor Commission: There is only one woman on this important Commission which has been the case for over 20 years. The Common Council just approved renewing the seat of a male member.
Shellfish Commission: There are currently no women on this important Commission (they help protect the multimillion-dollar shellfish beds).
Many of the Boards and Commissions have only a small number of seats occupied by women and we can do better. To be fair and representative, we should strive for at least 50% women, with some heavily male-dominated Boards and Commissioners volunteering to vacate their seats in order to include more women.
There is not all bad news, as the Administration has appointed more women to executive-level professional positions than any Mayor before, which is commendable, in addition to reviving the Commission on the Status of Women after several years of hearing from constituents like me.
However, without allowing more women on Boards, Commissions, Committee and Agencies, there are often issues related to communication and style that comes with intrinsic gender bias in our male-dominant society, well documented by those that study gender equity.
Many women report that they are constantly interrupted or have experienced insulting and condescending behavior when they try to assert themselves. And it is not just from the men. It’s time to stop the “Kill the Messenger” mentality. It’s time for some gender sensitivity training for our staff, our Boards and Commissions. That would be a great project for our new DEI Officer.
Women of Norwalk, what have your experiences been?
Women of Norwalk, send your resumes to the Mayor’s Office and your Councilpersons to let them know that you are interested in an appointment as another way to serve the community and share your knowledge and ideas.
Skip Hagerty February 10, 2023 at 5:45 am
Diane, I agree. As you say, intrinsic gender bias is real in our male dominated society. No matter how competent and fair-minded a counsel person seems, if he is male we all know that inside him lurks misogynist tendencies. Sadly, he can’t help it, it’s ingrained in him. And, regardless of his/her/ their/ its, or other’s actions over the course of their life to the contrary, a white person is intrinsically a racist, at least to some degree. It’s systemic. So, your call for equity is lacking. What about Hispanic representation? It’s a very large segment of Norwalk’s population. Is enough being done there? Blacks? LBGQTX? Christians? Non- Christians? These inherent biases go way, way beyond gender. Sadly,
this situation can’t be fixed by simply encouraging women to send in their resumes. We need the city’s DEI czar (who, as their title indicates has no biases) to conduct a comprehensive investigation into this. Diane, as a voter, I greatly appreciate that we have such virtuous leaders like you calling out problems like these.
Patricia Agudow February 10, 2023 at 6:44 am
It would be positive to see more people interested in public service to come forward. Having women and diverse membership increases the perspectives in the exchange of views and dutiess of Norwalk’s commissions, agencies and boards. I am honored to serve our City on n the Ethics Board. Hope to contribute for a long time.
Alma Lyons February 10, 2023 at 7:24 am
I would love to sit on the Common Council and make a True Change for- and listen to the people in Norwalk. But it takes Money and a name. If you’re well known, somehow you can get nominated to serve on the Common Council with a backing or so it seems. I have friends of friends that live in the mice infested Roodner Court. As a member, that would be the 1st thing I would tackle. There’s something to be said about a woman, we have motherly instincts. I think a woman’s viewpoint is certainly needed for some situations.
David Osler February 10, 2023 at 7:37 am
I am totally good with this I voted for Lisa for mayor every time we need people from multiple walks of life and multiple backgrounds don’t care about gender we just need more good and capable people
John O'Neill February 10, 2023 at 7:50 am
Let’s see if I understand some of the above: There are some commissions that have positions that need to be filled. There’s no one applying (male or female) yet Lauricella proposes that we reserve those open spots for a woman? Even though potentially there are no women interested? It doesn’t make sense to me. But then again I am a man. What do I know? I’m just the Father of 3 daughters who are all excelling in their careers. AND most importantly are happy. Oh, I’m also the brother of 5 sisters who have excelled in the world you seem to dislike. What do I know?
Becca Stoll February 10, 2023 at 1:46 pm
Alma makes a good point here, so many of these positions are VOLUNTEER. And having the time/means to volunteer is a PRIVILEGE. Now, I’m not necessarily advocating that we need to turn these into paid positions, but until we can make them more accessible and radically inclusive, the diversity makeup will not change. The statistics bear out that women in 2-parent homes do an overwhelming amount of the caregiving on average, whether that is for children, elderly family, or both. Making childcare available during in-person meetings, holding meetings at hours that are more friendly to the average work schedule, and more advertising (including on social media) might help to increase interest and make these opportunities attractive to a wider swath of candidates.
Lisa Brinton February 10, 2023 at 4:58 pm
Thoughtful oped Diane, however I don’t think Norwalk’s greatest governance challenge is gender, but partisanship and cronyism. The city is being run by a woman, Laoise King, the mayor’s chief of staff and we have many women on the common council, 8/15 previously 9/15 and 7/9 women on the BOE. No, Norwalk’s problem starts with a lack of ‘diversity of ideas’ and having to ‘kiss the ring’ in the mayor’s office. The challenges we face as a city, begin there.
Audrey Cozzarin February 10, 2023 at 8:08 pm
Diane, thank you for your courage to bring this topic forward.
Alma, please run for Common Council to bring your sincere mission forward.
David, Lisa keeps trying which also takes courage.
John, men have been in power for thousands of years and have made a royal mess of things. Time for good women to lead, time for peace on this earth.
John O'Neill February 11, 2023 at 8:47 am
Audrey: I think you’ll find this article below informative. I also believe both men and women are equally responsible for the successes and failures over the years..This is coming from a male who loves and respects women. I also fear my wife if that counts for anything